NEW YORK, Feb 9, 2018 (BSS/AFP) - Tom Ford on Thursday put female empowerment center stage at NY Fashion Week, kicking off the global Fall/Winter 2018 season with models prowling the runway as cat women, very much wearing the trousers.
If the biannual style fest battles an identity crisis as top-name labels flee to Europe, the 56-year-old Texan-born designer turned movie director was not one to let the #MeToo movement pass him by.
On the first day of New York's first women's fashion week since the sexual harassment watershed exploded, the Ford woman of Fall/Winter 2018 is an alley cat, a superwoman with a "Pussy Power" purse.
With barely a skirt in sight, the pant suit ruled. Models prowled the catwalk, their legs enveloped in tight pants, leggings or opaque tights of red, orange, yellow and green leopard print -- messy hair kept off their forehead protest-style with black headbands, owning the streets.
If pink pussy hats were the uniform of women demonstrators against the Trump administration -- a reference to the president's use of a vulgarity on a leaked Access Hollywood tape to refer to women's genitals -- then Ford's cat theme took the play on words to another level.
Even without the animal print pants, there were jaguar and zebra print kitten heels, tight lame leggings, a riot of sequins, patchwork and snakeskin on oversized coats, and boxy blazers -- belted for business.
All eyes were on the models' pins; apart from daring cut-out backs barely skimming the top of the seat and cut-out waists, there were few flashes of flesh. Dresses were restricted to high-necked minis.
In a throwback to hip-hop models wore silver ball hoop earrings, and there were lashings of black -- the color actresses opted to wear at the Golden Globes to protest against harassment.
"Every single thing you design, at least in the luxury sector, has to be potent," Ford told Women's Wear Daily in an interview. "It has to be the most amazing thing. No one needs just another black skirt."
"I get calls from our store managers all the time saying we need more things that are more expensive. When (they) say more expensive, they mean more special," he added.
His models, led by 16-year-old Kaia Gerber, daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford, debuted a new collection of cosmetics called Extreme and were watched by the likes of Julianne Moore and Zayn Malik. - Red carpet empowerment -
Tadashi Shoji tapped into the post-Harvey Weinstein world by offering women a sleek, powerful red carpet collection oozing 1940s Hollywood glamour, modernized with cut outs, pleating and plenty of black.
Women, he said, must never apologize for what they chose to wear or for wanting to look seductive -- regardless of how male harassers may choose to excuse predatory behavior given a woman's looks.
"So I did very sensual, sexy dresses, this time. Our dresses are about the empowerment of women and making women's body look beautiful," the 70-year- old, Japanese-born designer told AFP.
"Women have the right to enjoy life. It's ok. Why would you have to apologize? Men don't."
- Real models -
"Real people" modeled alongside the professionals at the quirky presentation of contemporary New York knitwear brand PH5, including a nurse and students from a nonprofit encouraging girls to code.
They showcased colorful stripy jumpsuits, body suits, sweaters and long skirts, all made of knitwear.
Colorful socks over shoes stretched up to the low thighs, with rockabilly- ish hairdos and dark glasses tying the looks together.
"We are trying to build a brand, fighting between what sells and what we really want to create," said Wei Lin, 30, the daughter of a large knitwear manufacturer whose factory near Hong Kong makes the clothes.
Millennial pop sensation Taylor Swift and actress Emma Roberts, niece of Julia, are already fans.